Science gets it wrong… again

So much for “the biggest thing in the history of biological sciences” and “the scientific breakthrough of the century, perhaps of all time”.

“We Have Learned Nothing from the Genome”

SPIEGEL: So the Human Genome Project has had very little medical benefits so far?

Venter: Close to zero to put it precisely. . . . [W]e have, in truth, learned nothing from the genome other than probabilities.

SPIEGEL: Did it at least provide us with some new knowledge?

Venter: It certainly has. Eleven years ago, we didn’t even know how many genes humans have. Many estimated that number at 100,000, and some went as high as 300,000. We made a lot of enemies when we claimed that there appeared to be considerably fewer — probably closer to the neighborhood of 40,000! And then we found out that there are only half as many. I was just in Stockholm for the 200th anniversary of the Karolinska Institute. The first presentation was about the many achievements the decoding of the genome has brought. Then I spoke and said that this century will be remembered for how little, and not how much, happened in this field.

One needn’t insist that the Human Genome Project was entirely useless – it wasn’t – to learn the very important lesson that asking scientists how government money should be spent is a terrible idea. Let’s face it, “a cure for cancer” is the scientific translation of that old politician’s standby: “for the children”. Science would appear to be our best bet for curing cancer prior to the Eschaton, but that doesn’t mean handing over blank checks to every flim-flam artist with a PhD and a white coat is a sensible investment that justifies the opportunity cost.

And, of course, like the Neo-Keynesians, the Darwinians will never admit that this expensive and cataclysmic failure of so many scientific predictions and expectations casts a degree of doubt upon the reliability of their pseudo-scientific model. The historical and scientific fact is that the world of genetics isn’t anywhere nearly as simple as their evolutionary model had led them to believe it was.

Anticipating the excuse

Paul Krugman finally produces what was always a totally predictable excuse for the failure of the Obama stimulus package:

It’s crucial to keep state and local government in mind when you hear people ranting about runaway government spending under President Obama. Yes, the federal government is spending more, although not as much as you might think. But state and local governments are cutting back. And if you add them together, it turns out that the only big spending increases have been in safety-net programs like unemployment insurance, which have soared in cost thanks to the severity of the slump. That is, for all the talk of a failed stimulus, if you look at government spending as a whole you see hardly any stimulus at all. And with federal spending now trailing off, while big state and local cutbacks continue, we’re going into reverse.

Krugman’s excuse for the failure of the Bush (2008) and Obama (2009) stimuli isn’t even new. Consider the following passage from a brilliant book written by an astonishingly handsome author more than one year ago:

Ironically, there is no shortage of historical examples to support the idea that even those who nominally subscribe to an empirical approach don’t hesitate to abandon their empiricism when the data doesn’t support their theories. Consider, for example, how two decades of failing mainstream economic policies in Japan have no more caused mainstream economists to conclude that their theories are incorrect than 70 years of economic failure in the Soviet Union caused socialist economists to abandon Marxism. Some excuse is always found to explain away the theory’s failure and rationalize its continued application; if the fiscal stimulus was not too small or too late, then the interest rate hikes were too large or too early. If the federal government’s expansionary efforts were unsuccessful during the New Deal, then it must have been due to their being overwhelmed by the contractionary policies of the state and local governments.
The Return of the Great Depression, 134

There’s really no reason to read Paul Krugman’s columns when you can read this blog and anticipate what he’s going to be writing one year later. Because Neo-Keynesians never learn from the inevitable failures of their economic models. In the Telegraph today, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes: “In Japan itself core CPI deflation has reached -1.5pc, the lowest since the great fiasco began 20 years ago. 10-year yields fell briefly below 1pc last week. Premier Naoto Kan has begun to talk of yet another stimulus package. “The time has come to examine whether it is necessary for us take some kind of action,” he said.”

WND column

Social Conservatives on Steroids

It is a basic principle of socionomics that economic boom times are strongly correlated with social liberalism, while economic contractions tend to be accompanied by social conservatism. This has been observed over thousands of years; the Lex Oppia of 215 B.C. was the most famous of the sumptuary laws that were passed by the Roman republic in response to the recession that took place during the second Punic war. Twenty years later, with Carthage defeated and the launch of a huge investment boom based on conquest and colonization, the Lex Oppia was repealed after the women of Rome rioted for days over the right to display their wealth in the same manner as non-Roman women.